The Importance of Rehab

Recently my husband and I have been discussing whether I should go to physical therapy for a few ‘tune up’ sessions. Rehabilitation or physical therapy sessions have been very helpful in the past when I was recovering from surgeries. But it’s also extremely helpful to get expert guidance on exercise, adaptations, and one-on-one attention for chronic health issues.

Rehab sounds scary and it definitely can be, but it also has been integral to my recovery from joint replacement surgeries. The first time I had surgeries and went to a month of intensive rehab in a facility, I was both afraid and homesick (I was only 15 at the time). But the daily exercise and the focus on physical recovery, made a huge difference in my healing and the long-term success of the replacement joints.

I have to admit that I hated not being at home and really detested the food. But I needed that time and focused on physical therapy to make the best recovery possible. It’s wasn’t fun and it was definitely hard work—but it was worth it.

After my recent knee revision surgery a couple of years ago, I spent about six weeks working in rehab. While I still missed home, the food was at least a bit better at this facility. At first, the focus was building up my basic strength and then we’d move on to more functional issues like getting back to standing, walking, and related functions. Often there was a concentration on key muscles, especially my quadriceps.

Even when I returned home, there were home sessions of physical therapy for a few weeks until I was strong enough to travel to outpatient physical therapy. And when I wasn’t at therapy, I had exercises to do on my own time.

I know that I’m not the typical case, due to the severity of my rheumatoid arthritis and the resulting related complications. However, I have found these periods of rehab to be very helpful. Not everyone needs to go into a facility for this concentrated therapy, but I recommend it for people who have the opportunity and insurance coverage in order to have the best post-surgical results.

A must after joint replacement

In my opinion, home physical therapy and outpatient physical therapy are a must after knee and hip joint replacements. I get concerned when I hear about people (even those who are much healthier and stronger than me) sent home without any physical therapy plans after these surgeries. How do you recover without safe and regular exercise?

In my case, physical therapy is long, complex, and intensive. I’ve relearned to stand and walk several times (honestly, I’ve lost track of the number) after surgeries and childhood flares. While I am doing OK on these activities now and do my own regular exercise, my husband and I have wondered if getting a ‘refresher’ would be helpful for maintaining my strength and abilities.

One thing I have experienced over the years living with RA is that range of motion can deteriorate so slowly that I may not know it is happening. Or certain muscles get weak because my exercises focus on other areas. Or I am compensating for some joint pain and may be causing other problems someplace else in my body. Without fresh eyes, like a physical therapy professional, I may not catch a problem early or know how to address it.

Sure, I’d rather spend my time doing other things—like sitting on the couch and eating bonbons. But if a little extra rehab or visits to the physical therapist will help me to maintain strengths and abilities, I think it is worth it to go.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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